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Arrival around 12:30 pm at the airport after 14 hour on the plane. There was a stop-over in Jo’burg, but we weren’t allowed to leave the plane so we just got the see Johannesburg-Airport in the early morning. When the plane approached Cape Town we were ahead of schedule so we flew a circle around the Cape peninsula which was a very good start into the day. The immigration officer was very friendly and for the first time in my life, someone picked me up the airport. The driver was already waiting with a nameplate outside and I just hopped in the bus. I was the only guest to be picked up, so I felt like a VIP.
The big surprise was when I arrived at my pre-arranged accommodation, the Over-Sea Club – no one was at the hostel, opened the door or even answered the phone. I waited with a Japanese girl, a student in Cape Town who was supposed to meet up with a friend and we had quite a nice conversation till a guy approaches us for money. First he would just talk to us about the weather and stuff, but then he started to tell us a weird story about German tourists taking all of his stuff and that he had to leave Cape Town and therefore needed 300 Rand… bla bla. I’m sure he talked to us for more then 20 minutes, till I made up an excuse so the Japanese Girl and I could leave. I decided to stay at her hostel, the Travellers Inn, which was just next door. I must have been a bit confused the first day, since I was willing to pay 200 Rand (around 30 Euro) for one night. Nice and clean single room, with breakfast, but not my usual budget for accommodation…
Since I did not want to spend another 200 Rand for my second night I switched over to the Aardvark hostel at Sea-Point by taxi (50 Rand for the ride) . This hostel offerer much more for less money (75 Rand per night). Swimming pool, bar, restaurant, TV-Room, etc. just to name a few. It was a very hot and sunny day without wind, unusual for this time of the year so I decided to take the opportunity and explore the infamous Table Mountain. The weather-condition can change very quickly in Cape Town, and sometimes you can’t climb Table-Mountain for a couple of days. The desk-clerk called a Rikki, (minibuses which offer cheaper fares then taxis) for me, which took me to the ground station of the cableway. My initial plan was to take the cableway up and down since it is not recommended to climb the mountain on your own, but I met a German guy on the Rikki who wanted to hike up Table mountain and we decided to team up.
The hike was a really good decision, since I got to see lots of different animals and plants and to enjoy Cape Town from above. But as I said before, it was a hot and sunny day and this made the hiking-trip very exhausting. Occasionally, people die when they try to hike up Table mountain. The view on top of Table mountain was breathtaking. For me, the walk up was enough and there was no chance I would walk down the mountain again, so I took the cable way back and called a Rikki to get back to my hostel. Rikkis usually pick up people on their way, which explains the cheap fairs, so it can take a while till you get to your supposed destination and sometimes you are lucky as me and a gorgeous model from New York joins you. I found it quiet amusing that a model in expensive clothing was sitting in the dirty little bus with me. She had to go to Camps Bay, the very hip, trendy and extremely expensive beach/district of Cape Town where all the rich and beautiful people stay. Unfortunately I had to stay in Sea-Point, budget wise, which happens to be the “gay district” of Cape Town… I also did not know was that in South Africa Cape Town is widely know as HQ, which stands for headquarters of the gay community. But that’s nothing to worry about.
In the evening I met a guy from England. He was on a world around trip for seven weeks. The most amazing thing about him was that he had all his accommodation (SEVEN weeks) booked in advance. I was only on a three week holiday and did not even made a booking for the first night (a reservation, but even that one changed). After a few drinks with girls from Ireland in hostel-owned Aardvark-Bar we decided to explore the Cape Peninsula the next day together.
The day started at 9 am in the morning, when we took the train to Simons Town. At the train station in Simons Town a Rikki driver approached us to take a ride to Boulders Beach and Cape of good Hope with him. 70 Rand for each didn’t seem to expensive for a 4 hour ride, and we hoped into his bus. First he took us to Cape-Point, a lighthouse and restaurant, with an breathtaking view to Cape of Good Hope. Next was Cape of Good Hope, the most south western point of Africa. The cape peninsula is kind of a ship cemetery and more then 800 ships lost their ability to “swim” in this area. Quit impressive…
After the most south-western point of Africa, we headed back to Boulders Beach, the infamous Penguin colony. A short break was caused by family of about 20 baboons, which where fighting and screaming around on the street. The penguins occupied Boulders Beach about 20 years ago, and became a major tourist attraction in the resent years. There are hundreds of them, and the only thing they seem to do is to breed their eggs, protect their childreen and shit around. Honestly, the smell caused by penguin-crap was almost unbearable.
We finished our stay in Simons Town with a nice dinner in a fishrestaurant on the main street before we went back to Cape Town.
Camps Bay was on my “To do” list for this day, instead of taking a Rikki I decided to walk there, which took me about an hour. I passed some really nice an awful expensive villas. Sometimes beautifull looking, brown tanned woman did there morning-sport and I felt like in an episode of Baywatch. I was brought back to reality when I saw a black man climbing up the embankment. He didn’t asked me for money or anything, just smiled at me and walkd by. I looked down the embankment and found his home, an old blanket, lots of newspapers, some wood and other stuff which create his home. A rat was going through his “stuff” andit was such a strange scene. This men lived in Camps Bay, the most expensive area of Cape Town. Two different world within 200 meters.
I continued to walk to the main beach, which was very crowded and after a short rest took a Rikki back to Sea Point.
In the late afternoon the guy from England and I tried to hike up Lions Head, to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, he was vertigo and had to give up after only 500 meters. I made it half way up, but then I realised that I wouldn’t make it up to the top and back in time before darkness falls, so instead I enjoyed the wonderful sunset on my way back and promised myself to climb the top another time.
After four fabulous days in Cape Town, it was time to leave. So I just spent one long day on the Baz-Bus to Knysna, with lots of movies and some fellow travellers. Baz-Bus wasn’t like I expected it, instead of a big coach it was a small Mercedes Bus with space for about 12 people. All of the people got out of the bus earlier then me, but I ended up meeting them again later on my trip. Knysna was actually bigger then I expected, with a small shopping centre at the so called “Waterfront, lots of shops at the main street and even a small cinema. The best thing about Knysna was that it was save, I was able to go to cinema at 10 pm and walk back at midnight without having to worry of being mugged.
Unfortunately Knysna had very little to offer, the beach was out of range and there were no hiking trails or other activities I was interested in, so I decided to switch over to Plettenberg Bay by Minibus. The Minibus was an experience of it’s own. I had to walk from the hostel (Knysna Backpackers) to a market, and plenty of small busses where already waiting to pick up people to go to other villages. The real bad thing about my “Minitaxi” was that the driver wouldn’t leave until the bus was full. So there where 9 people on the bus, waiting for almost one hour, sweating, in very uncomfortable position (two woman even had all their wooden dishes with them), including me. The driver was gone most of the time, I guess to find the 10th person. But to do myself a favour I finaly paid the price for the 10th person and we were able to leave.
I spent the rest of the day, expect a lunch break at the local Mexican restaurant (excellent chilli) on the beach, a “blue flag” beach, as the owner of my new hostel assured me.. I stayed at a Backpackers called “Nothandos” (which means “love” in Zulu), a very nice and clean place, owned by a white couple. I had two bedrooms on my own (no snoring like in the previous nights!!) including a bathroom and hot shower. The hostel was located next to an shopping mall and it was only a 15 minute walk to the beach.
I spend most of the day hiking around the “Robberg, a peninsula about 15 minutes away from the main city. There are three hiking trails to explore the Robberg, a 20 minute walk, a two hour walk and a five hour walk. It wasn’t the best weather and the cliffs get slippery during rain so I went for the 2 hour walk. The cliff and the vegetation was very interesting, and sometimes the trees and bushes would grew high enough to create a natural roof that would keep away the train.
Side-Note: Robberg is about to become a world natural heritage. If you are on Robbberg and look at Plettenberg Bay, you realise that, like in every other bay, a big chunk is missing. Well, the big chunk that is missing and makes Plettenberg a “bay” is actually the Falkland Islands close to South-America. The rocks that you find on Robberg are exactly the same rocks you will find on the Falkland islands and that is one of the major proofs that there once was one big continent called Gondwana or Pangea.
The day ended with an typical South African Barbecue, organised by the owners of the hostel. Plenty of steaks and “Borkworst”, some kind of sausages, accompanied by my favourite drink, a cider called “Savana”.
To watch Dolphins is a “Must do” of South Africa. And Plettenberg Bay is a great place to do so. They have an very unusual launch method known as the “dolly trailer system”, where the passengers remain on the boat while it is pushed into the sea. It is kind like a roller coaster ride and the way how you get back on the beach is even more exciting, full speed towards the beach and pray no one gets in your way! On the three hour boat tour we saw hundreds of dolphins, jumping out of the water and mating around. It was beautiful to see those peaceful creatures in their natural habit. We also tried to see whales, since their season had just started, but unfortunately no Moby Dick showed up. We finished the boat-ride with a visit at the robe-colony at the Robberg peninsula.
I left Plettenberg Bay after the amazing dolphin tour and took the bus to Port Elisabeth. I didn’t use the Baz-Bus this time since a normal Bus looked cheaper, but after my arrival in Port Elisabeth I had to pay another 40 Rand for the taxi- to get to my hostel, the PE Backpackers, which equalised my savings. At night I went bowling with an English couple (guess what, on an around the world trip for one year…) and Peter, a guy from the Czech republic who was running the hostel as part of his pratical training. I also booked a tour to the Addo Elephant park for the very next, to keep me busy and not waist to much time just hanging around on the beach or at the hostel.
Addo Elephant Park was 1,5 hour drive away from Port Elisabeth, and on the way our tour guide stopped at a township and told us about Apartheid and how it affected his live.
He was a “coloured”, which for example meant that he had to live in a designated area and the education-opportunities were bad compared to the education a white person, still better then those of a black person. Out of 10 Rand, 1 Rand would be spend on education for a black person, 3 Rand for a coloured person and the rest would go into educating a white person.
But as we all know, Apartheid-laws are gone so things have changed. The problems are still big in this country and it will take many years to solve them, but its much better then it was before.
My personal feeling is that South Africans are very proud of their country and there is one person everyone is looking up to, and that’s Nelson Mandela. They are going to change the name of Port Elisabeth into Nelson Mandela Bay, with a 25 meter high statue of him at new harbour they are currently building.
But on to the Elephant Park. Unfortunately for us we didn’t get to see a lot elephants and the tour guide told us that it was one of his worst days. Usually visitors end up seeing hundreds of elephants, whereas we only saw about twenty to thirty the entire day. But since it was my first game-drive ever, I didn’t mind at all and was fully satisfied to see Zebras, Antelopes., Giraffes and yes also a few Elephants.
A little advice: When driving around in the park you are not alowed to leave the car, so keep in mind that lots of drinking will fill up your bladder and then you will, just like me, pray for a stop.